From Olympic gold to the Super Bowl
Story by Byron McCauley is a columnist at The Enquirer.
The resume of Cincinnati’s Dustin Woods starts something like this:
2018-present: Assistant strength and conditioning coach, Los Angeles Rams. Helped players develop strength, power, speed and quickness. Helped players recover through training techniques. The team won National Football League NFC Championship and a berth in Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta.
2011-2014, 2016-18: Served as the strength and conditioning coach for the Chinese National Short Track Speed Skating Team for five years. Helped team train for 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and PyeongChang, South Korea. Teams won three gold medals, six silver medals and one bronze.
Two Olympics and a Super Bowl appearance over eight years. Who does that?
At 33, Woods could be forgiven if he chose to walk with his chest out and shoulders back. But that’s not his style.
“It does feel amazing. It does feel great, but I’ve always been able to keep things in perspective,” Woods told me this week from Los Angeles, where the Rams are preparing to play in next weekend’s big game. “While this is a blessing and this is awesome, the joy I get is to say that this is a testimonial of God’s faithfulness. We asked for direction and we listened.”
Woods grew up in Roselawn and was a four-sport varsity star at Purcell Marian High School. In college, football and baseball won. He could run like a deer and was a stand-out wide receiver at Miami University. That’s where he first met an upperclassman who also played wideout. His name was Sean McVay, a football savant who is now the Rams head coach.
Woods, himself, had NFL talent, but he went undrafted after he injured his hamstring during his senior year. The injury was slow to heal. So, he put his kinesiology and health degree to work. Before going to China, he trained athletes at Ignition Performance Athletics Group.
He had an opportunity to possibly join McVay before his second stint with the Chinese team, but the timing wasn’t right.
After the 2018 Olympics ended, Woods and his wife, Allyse, pondered next steps. A call came from the Rams. They had an opening. Would Woods like to interview? The timing was perfect. “I didn’t have time to worry (about the decision),” Woods said.
Two weeks later, he was in Los Angeles with Allyse and their two children. “I couldn’t even do any of this stuff without her going along,” he said. He and Allyse were married at Miami.
While McVay was a former teammate, Woods said he was not in the business of doing a friend a favor. McVay made that clear to Ted Rath, director of strength and conditioning – and the person who would be Woods’ boss.
McVay and Rath were looking for staff who are morally centered, experienced and can handle adversity.
“I know who you are as a man, and who you are in the locker room. I’m hiring on character,” Woods quotes McVay as saying. “That kind of culture has worked for this team.”
The Rams practice facility is located at California Lutheran University. The school has a large, iconic cross on a hill on its grounds that is visible from far away, including from the team’s practice fields and weight room.
Woods appreciates his good fortune, yes, but he only has to look to the hill to find humility.
“It’s a reminder of where the Lord has brought me to,” he said.
Byron McCauley is a columnist at The Enquirer. He is also a member of the editorial board. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 513-504-8915.
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